With many states and cities lifting COVID lockdown restrictions, does your workplace have safety measures in place to cope with the new normal? As employees return to the workplace, employers must have strategies to ensure everyone’s wellbeing.
The novel coronavirus is here to stay, at least for now. And given its contagious nature, anyone at your workplace can contract it and put other workers and even your customers and vendors at risk. For that reason, employers must have a pre and post-COVID precautionary system in place to prevent and deter the virus from spreading in the workplace.
What Should the Employer do?
Take specific steps before and after an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
Before an Employee Tests Positive
It is a good idea to have a workplace coordinator implement a robust anti-coronavirus system in your company. If you do not already have such a position in your company, it’s time to create one. The coordinator should develop and execute a plan to cope with the pandemic at your workplace, and carry out the necessary procedures when an employee tests positive for the virus.
Second, ensure that all workers are trained in basic infection control protocols. Encourage workers to use face masks and practice social distancing wherever possible.
Also, disinfect surfaces at regular intervals and install a virtual or in-person system for health checks daily before an employee enters the premises. For example, you can do temperature checks and monitor for symptoms.
These checks, however, don’t detect asymptomatic employees.
After an Employee Tests Positive
If an employee tests positive despite precautionary measures, employers must require them to isolate. As an employer, you now must protect your employees and sanitize the workplace.
Protecting Other Employees
Determine which of your other workers have been exposed and are at risk. This generally means employees who were within six feet for prolonged periods with the one who tested positive. It makes sense to inform fellow workers of their possible risks while maintaining confidentiality as required by the ADA.
You may have to work with your local healthcare provider on how to proceed further. Be sure to follow the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure. These include encouraging the infected person to self-isolate and work remotely while monitoring symptoms. The CDC recommends isolation for 10 days.
Employees exposed to the virus must be tested to ensure that they do not have the virus. InOut Labs provides screening and testing for employees in the workplace and can identify both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Employees who test negative immediately after exposure do not need to stay away for more than a week if they don’t develop any symptoms.
Sanitizing the Workplace
In most cases, you would not need to shut down the entire facility if one or more of your workers test positive for COVID-19. But it is a good idea to close off any areas used by the infected individual(s) for prolonged periods. But be sure to wait at least 24 hours before disinfecting the area to protect the cleaners from being exposed to respiratory droplets. If possible for your type of workplace, open all windows and doors for better ventilation.
CDC recommends cleaning all surfaces with soap and water before applying a disinfectant. The cleaning staff must wear protective masks and PPE for safety and have proper training in the disinfection procedure. They must know the correct use of cleaning chemicals and disposal of cleaning materials.